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Monday, August 13, 2018

Children learn best when engaged in the living world not on screens | Aeon Essays

Children learn best when engaged in the living world not on screens | Aeon Essays

Look up from your screen
Children learn best when their bodies are engaged in the living world. We must resist the ideology of screen-based learning

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A rooster crows and awakens my family at the farm where we are staying for a long weekend. The air is crisp, and stars twinkle in the sky as the Sun rises over the hill. We walk to the barn, where horses, cows, chickens, pigs, dogs and cats vie for our attention. We wash and replenish water bowls, and carry hay to the cows and horses. The kids collect eggs for breakfast.
The wind carries the smells of winter turning to spring. The mud wraps around our boots as we step in puddles. When we enter a stall, the pigs bump into us; when we look at the sheep, they cower together in a corner. We are learning about the urban watershed, where eggs and beef come from, and how barns were built in the 19th century with wood cauls rather than metal nails. We experience the smells of the barn, the texture of the ladder, the feel of the shovels, the vibration when the pigs grunt, the taste of fresh eggs, and the camaraderie with the farmers.
As a parent, it is obvious that children learn more when they engage their entire body in a meaningful experience than when they sit at a computer. If you doubt this, just observe children watching an activity on a screen and then doing the same activity for themselves. They are much more engaged riding a horse than watching a video about it, playing a sport with their whole bodies rather than a simulated version of it in an online game.
Today, however, many powerful people are pushing for children to spend more time in front of computer screens, not less. Philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have contributed millions of dollars to ‘personal learning’, a term that describes children working by themselves on computers, and Laurene Powell Jobs has bankrolled the XQ Super School project to use technology to ‘transcend the confines of traditional teaching methodologies’. Policymakers such as the US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos call personalised learning ‘one of the most promising developments in K-12 education’, and Rhode Island has announced a statewide personalised learning push for all public school students. Think tanks such as the Brookings Institution recommend that Latin-American countries build ‘massive e-learning hubs that reach millions’. School administrators tout the advantages of giving all students, including those at kindergarten, personal computers.
Many adults appreciate the power of computers and the internet, and think that children should have access to them as soon as possible. Yet screen learning displaces other, more tactile ways to discover the world. Human beings learn with their eyes, yes, but also their ears, nose, mouth, skin, heart, hands, feet. The more time kids spend on computers, the less time they have to go on field trips, build model airplanes, have recess, hold a book in their hands, or talk with teachers and friends. In the 21st century, schools should not get with the times, as it were, and place children on computers for even more of their days. Instead, schools should provide children with rich experiences that engage their entire bodies.
To better understand why so many people embrace screen learning, we can turn to a classic of 20th-century French philosophy: Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception (1945).
According to Merleau-Ponty, European philosophy has long prioritised ‘seeing’ over ‘doing’ as a path to understanding. Plato, René Descartes, John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant: each, in different ways, posits a gap between the mind and the world, the subject and the object, the thinking self and physical things. Philosophers take for granted that the mind sees things from a distance. When Descartes announced ‘I think therefore I am’, he was positing a fundamental gulf between the thinking self and the physical body. Despite the novelty of digital media, Merleau-Ponty would contend that Western thought has long assumed that the mind, not the body, is the site of thinking and learning.
According to Merleau-Ponty, however, ‘consciousness is originally not an “I think that”, but rather an “I can”’. In other words, human thinking emerges out of lived experience, and what we can do with our bodies profoundly shapes what philosophers think or scientists discover. ‘The entire universe of science is constructed upon the lived world,’ he wrote. Phenomenology of Perception aimed to help readers better appreciate the connection between the lived world and consciousness.
Philosophers are in the habit of saying that we ‘have’ a body. But as Merleau-Ponty points out: ‘I am not in front of my body, I am in my body, or rather I am my body.’ This simple correction carries important implications about learning. What does it mean to say that I am my body?
The mind is not somehow outside of time and space. Instead, the body thinks, feels, Continue reading: Children learn best when engaged in the living world not on screens | Aeon Essays

Facebook news chief Campbell Brown to media: ‘Work with Facebook or die’ / Boing Boing

Facebook news chief to media: ‘Work with Facebook or die’ / Boing Boing

Facebook news chief to media: ‘Work with Facebook or die’

The Australian reports that Facebook media relations chief Campbell Brown privately disclosed that Mark Zuckerberg is indifferent to publishers and offers the news media a simple choice: "Work with Facebook or die."
A senior Facebook executive has privately admitted Mark Zuckerberg “doesn’t care” about publishers and warned that if they did not work with the social media giant, “I’ll be holding your hands with your dying business like in a ­hospice”.
That's a strange thought, isn't it? Right down to how an attempt at intimidation is undermined its own awkward spitefulness.
Still, she (invoking he), is effectively threatening to destroy news publishers unless they comply with Facebook's vision for their future. So everyone has work to do.
Brown was hired last year after to help Facebook "smooth over its strained ties to the news media."

But Facebook executives said they were hiring Ms. Brown for her understanding of the news industry as a onetime White House correspondent, co-anchor of “Weekend Today” and primary substitute anchor of “Nightly News” at NBC News, and prime-time anchor on CNN, which she left in 2010.
Some commentators noted Ms. Brown’s ties to the Republican donor Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Education. Ms. DeVos’s family foundation funds The 74, an education-focused journalism site co-founded and led by Ms. Brown.
Hiring a DeVos crony to deal with fake news and media relations quickly became the Facebook Executives Puzzled By Human Emotion trainwreck it promised to be: Brown was last in the news threatening to sue The Guardianfor breaking the Cambridge Analytica story.
Facebook news chief to media: ‘Work with Facebook or die’ / Boing Boing

Charter schools scramble to become legal as new school year nears - The San Diego Union-Tribune

Charter schools scramble to become legal as new school year nears - The San Diego Union-Tribune

Charter schools scramble to become legal as new school year nears

With the new school year just days away, hundreds of San Diego-area charter school students and their parents are waiting to see if their school will be legally allowed to exist.
For years, independent study California charter schools, many of which combine in-class and online instruction, had opened “satellite” locations outside of the school district that authorized them under the assumption that state law allowed it. Every charter school needs authorization to operate, whether it be a school district or a county education office.
These “satellite” schools were controversial because they took students — and state funding — away from districts that didn’t have a say in authorizing them. It was often easier way for such charter schools to get approved, because their authorizing school district would not be losing students to the charter school.
In 2016, an appeals court ruled that charter schools can no longer have satellite locations outside the boundaries of the authorizing school district. So charter schools that already had these satellites were forced to find ways to comply with the court decision. Many charter schools got waivers from the state that gave them about a year of extra time to do so.

In order to comply, some charter schools have simply closed satellite locations that couldn’t get authorized, had too few students or wouldn’t survive financially as their own school. That’s why Julian Charter School closed its San Diego and Alpine locations at the end of June, said Jennifer Cauzza, Julian Charter School’s executive director. Some schools have also combined locations and shuffled students around.
But mainly, charter schools have petitioned the school districts in which their satellites are located, asking them for authorization.
Charter school leaders describe it as an arduous process that has taken so long, it's beginning to spill over into the new school year. Charter school officials had to draft applications, often with as many as 1,000 or more pages, for each satellite location.
“If you wonder why it took so long, that’s why it took so long,” Cauzza said.
The issue frustrates charter school leaders because they have been operating schools for years, and now they’ve found themselves relying on different school districts to authorize them and let them stay open.
“It is crazy, it is complicated, and it’s sad because it was working well to begin with,” Cauzza said.
This almost became a problem for the National University Academy charter school network, which was authorized by the Lakeside Union School District but had a satellite dual language school in the Vista Unified School District, as well as other locations.
The charter school asked the Vista school board this year to authorize the Dual Language Institute, which has about 260 students.
Vista denied the application for a number of reasons, including that the charter school’s Continue reading: Charter schools scramble to become legal as new school year nears - The San Diego Union-Tribune

Big Education Ape: Court ruling limits charter schools' expansions with satellite campuses outside their territory | Northern California Record -
How Goldilocks Opened a Charter School That Nobody Wanted
Big Education Ape: Satellite charter schools under fire - The San Diego Union-Tribune -

Big Education Ape: Charter challenges appellate ruling to state Supreme Court - The San Diego Union-Tribune -

How about creating schools with more purpose than test scores and letter grades? | The Lens

How about creating schools with more purpose than test scores and letter grades? | The Lens

How about creating schools with more purpose than test scores and letter grades?

I got my start in education as a Peace Corps volunteer in southeastern Ecuador. I lived and worked in a small rural community. Moya had a tiny school with about 45 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. There was one teacher and two part-time parent volunteers. It was an adobe version of the little red schoolhouse that figures in stories of the American frontier.
During the day, the children studied the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic. But they also had to work, and there was a lot to do: tend the garden, pick up the eggs, milk the cows, look after the school’s sheep and goats, keep the schoolhouse clean and tidy, help prepare breakfast and lunch. Since there was only one teacher, the older students spent time reading with the younger ones.
The students also participated in mingas. A minga is an Andean version of an Amish barn raising. The entire community would come together to tackle large tasks, from repairing irrigation canals to carving out hillside terraces for crop cultivation.
Whenever possible, the teacher tried to incorporate skills and knowledge from the curriculum into the various chores. She asked the kids to estimate the number of ripe cherries on the capulin trees, to describe the behavior of the various animals in their journals, and to divide up ingredients and portions for meals. She always challenged them to come up with the most efficient way to complete each task.

Curriculum tie-ins aside, the chores instilled a sense of responsibility and community. They helped the kids develop discipline, a work ethic, and strong habits of mind. They also nurtured increasingly important workplace skills like collaboration and communication. I noticed that the kids seemed more motivated by chores that had a direct impact on their daily lives.

When I returned to the United States and became a teacher, I tried to incorporate some of the lessons I learned in Ecuador. One of these was to make the learning relevant or purposeful.
It wasn’t easy.
My kids had little interest in the history of Louisiana, let alone the ancient world. (Maybe, I would have had more luck teaching fashion, dating, or contemporary music.) Finding connections to the real world was a challenge in itself — and then there was the need to “cover” a myriad of Common Core topics in impossibly short 50-minute periods.
Nonetheless, I tried.
I had my kids take oral histories from war veterans, write letters to the editor of the local paper, teach “lessons from the past” to younger students, and suggest policy changes to politicians (alas, mostly ignored).

Folwell Dunbar
Parents join their children to participate in school beautification days.
I was working in a private school, so I had some latitude. One time, I took a group of middle- and high-school students to clean up a nearby swamp. There was a recreational area near the highway that was littered with trash. We filled up more than a hundred garbage bags in less than a day.
Most parents embraced the field work, but when we returned to school in the late afternoon, a few met me at the gate to complain. “We don’t pay tuition for our kids to pick up trash in a &%$# swamp,” they griped! “Wouldn’t it be easier to just drain the damn thing?!”
“No,” I said, “draining is actually one of the problems.” I then rattled off a litany of reasons for protecting and preserving fragile wetlands.
“Your kids literally got their feet wet reinforcing lessons learned in the classroom,” I said. “And, they did a good deed.” (The school had experienced a minga moment.)
While my argument to clean up the swamp may have irked a few parents, the confrontation actually strengthened my resolve to make learning more purposeful.


Today, whenever I visit a school as an educational consultant, I always ask the kids, “So, what are you learning today?” I immediately Continue reading: How about creating schools with more purpose than test scores and letter grades? | The Lens